No. Not that manger. The manger of Proverbs 14:4 “Where no oxen are, the manger is clean…” A manger is a box or trough in a stable from which livestock feed. Animals are animals. A pig would rather eat slop than wear a necklace of pearls. Animals spit and spew. Imagine a bunch of cows eating out of a manger. It’s not a sit down dinner with manners and etiquette, napkins and order. They dip their face in the food. Dig around in it with their nose; saliva and mucus everywhere. They drop the food on the floor and all around make a BIG MESS! Where no oxen are, the manger is indeed… clean.
As this is a proverb it is a general truth that can be spiritually applied in many ways. We like cleanliness and order. And many times, the best way to keep cleanliness and order is to just do nothing. Let’s consider three examples of application: hospitality, support, and evangelism.
We have the command from God to practice hospitality from a cheerful heart (Ax 16:15, Ro 12:13, I Pt 4:9) as clear, plain, and straightforward as “repent and be baptized” (Ax 2:38). But to fulfill this command may mean a lot of work. Not only in preparation, but in clean up afterward. Where no guests are, the manger is clean. If I don’t practice hospitality I don’t have to worry about what to have available to eat or drink, I don’t have to worry about interrupting my normal routine, I don’t have to worry about having everything perfectly neat and tidy, I don’t have to worry about staying up till everyone decides to go home, I don’t have to worry about what all the visitors will think of my house or refreshments, etc. Nope, where no oxen are, the manger is clean. Of course, I won’t have to worry about being invited to God’s home either.
Support for evangelists is, according to God’s word, a responsibility of the Lord’s church (Philippians 4:15-18, I Cor9:7-14, I Tim 5:18). But what happens when churches just want to keep the manger clean. They don’t want to have to deal with investigating the men to see if they are worthy of support. They don’t want to have to deal with possible interference from other brethren making accusations about who they support or associate with. They don’t want to support anyone unless he meets their (the church’s) criteria as opposed to God’s. They don’t want some members to be offended they support one guy and not another. And after all, it’s a lot more neat and tidy to support the “building fund” (scripture unknown) as opposed to the “pillar and support of the truth” fund (I Tim 3:15). The manger stays clean.
Spreading the “excellencies of God” (I Pt. 2:9) is part of our being. Isn’t the gospel the “excellencies” of God? If not, then I don’t know what is. But oftentimes we are concerned about keeping our social manger clean. We don’t want to hurt family member’s feelings. We don’t want to disrupt friendships. We are worried about offending the neighbor. We are worried the stranger we cross paths with whom we may never see again in our lives will think we are a “weird Christian Zealot” if we try to talk to them about the gospel of Christ. “… but much increase comes by the strength of the ox.” (Pro 14:4)
What is the good that can come from being hospitable, supporting evangelists, and sharing the gospel with others? It may be difficult, it may get downright messy; but is it better to have a clean manger or a clean conscience? Our homes are a blessing from God to be used to His glory. The church treasury is the Lord’s funds to do the Lord’s work. The gospel “…is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” (Ro. 1:16), but its strength is useless unless we take it in and put it to work. God is looking for a dirty manger. It’s not only the evidence we know His will, but that we are doing it. (Mt. 25)